NYU Tisch MFA vs Columbia MFA ; Director/Writer

Arthur.g

Member
I know this has been debated a bit but after reading all the threads I still feel the need to ask.

I have been accepted into both Columbia and NYU Tish Graduate program and I dont know which one to choose.

I'm looking for a program that will train me best as a writer AND director. Everyone has their own philosophies and approach but for me, I want to direct my own stories. Of course I am interested in directing not just my own scripts but I feel like understanding storytelling through screenwriting is fundamentally important to my work as a director, they are interlinked. But I should say that directing is ultimately where my heart lies, writing is a way to formulate my ideas into something I can direct.

Some people suggest that Columbia has a stronger emphasis on 'storytelling'(this seems ambiguous), where NYU on technical skills. Some people also suggest that Columbia delivers stronger writers and NYU stronger directors...

What about strong emphasis on director/writer?

I am personally drawn to drama and films that dig deep. I'm not so interested in films that are more of a spectacle. I guess one could try to pigeon hole these two sides into 'independent' vs 'blockbuster' but I know that has its own problems. I guess I'm saying all of this to give an idea of where my sensibilities lie. I also applied for the dffb in Berlin if that helps in giving an idea of what I am looking for.

Alumni and connections are of course important to me but come second to the ethos of the program in my mind.

Would love any advice or insight.

Thanks so much.
 

Chris W

Willem was robbed
Staff member
BU
I have been accepted into both Columbia and NYU Tish Graduate program and I dont know which one to choose.
Have you seen this interview with @Patrick Clement ?

COLUMBIA FILM SCHOOL STUDENT PROFILE: Patrick Clement -  Screenwriting & Directing MFA

COLUMBIA FILM SCHOOL STUDENT PROFILE: Patrick Clement - Screenwriting & Directing MFA

"I went to Columbia because I wanted to be a better storyteller and understanding structure... and I do think my storytelling has gotten better and more complex and deeper and I'm really grateful to Columbia.... they delivered exactly what I expected them to deliver." Recently I had the...
 

Arthur.g

Member
Have you seen this interview with @Patrick Clement ?

COLUMBIA FILM SCHOOL STUDENT PROFILE: Patrick Clement -  Screenwriting & Directing MFA

COLUMBIA FILM SCHOOL STUDENT PROFILE: Patrick Clement - Screenwriting & Directing MFA

"I went to Columbia because I wanted to be a better storyteller and understanding structure... and I do think my storytelling has gotten better and more complex and deeper and I'm really grateful to Columbia.... they delivered exactly what I expected them to deliver." Recently I had the...
Thank you for this, great read!
 

xrisdelrio

Member
Supporting Member
Columbia
NYU
This also might be useful for you COLUMBIA VS NYU TISCH.

Congratulations by the way!

Have you tried watching a few films from each program? I noticed that the NYU films seem to have a stronger stylistic voice, whereas Columbia has a more standard approach of filmmaking but with very strong stories (although NYU's storytelling also seemed very strong). There's also the consideration of cost, because NYU has an extra year of coursework. I guess depending on your financial situation, either one might be a better fit for you.
 

Arthur.g

Member
This also might be useful for you COLUMBIA VS NYU TISCH.

Congratulations by the way!

Have you tried watching a few films from each program? I noticed that the NYU films seem to have a stronger stylistic voice, whereas Columbia has a more standard approach of filmmaking but with very strong stories (although NYU's storytelling also seemed very strong). There's also the consideration of cost, because NYU has an extra year of coursework. I guess depending on your financial situation, either one might be a better fit for you.
Yes I have watched a few of them but would love recommendations on where to find more of the NYU and Columbia films?

Ah thats interesting to hear about NYU being stronger stylistically! When you say standard approach. I guess this depends on what context of cinima were talking about. Could you maybe give an example of what you think standard vs stylistic would be as I think the examples may vary.

Thanks heaps fort the words!
 

xrisdelrio

Member
Supporting Member
Columbia
NYU
I watched some Columbia films when I went to their info session last fall. I think they had them available to view online, so you could probably ask the admissions office to share that with you.

For NYU, I couldn't find anything from the school so I just went to Vimeo and searched "NYU" in the staff picks page. Before watching a few shorts, I would just check the director's info and see if they had a website. Most people list their MFA in their bio if they got one, so I only watched shorts that I knew were made by NYU grads. I didn't try doing the same for Columbia, but perhaps you could find some this way too. The only downside to this is that the films I found were not the most recent (which makes sense because I assume most people try to submit to festivals for a year at least before putting their films online).

In terms of the stylistic approach, I got a sense that some of the NYU films were a little more bold. Like I remember watching one that was pretty similar to a Wes Anderson movie (
). That being said, one of the films I watched at the Columbia info session was very different from the rest, and also quite bold stylistically (shot in academy ratio, probably on film, with no dialogue, and a very simple story).
 

Arthur.g

Member
I watched some Columbia films when I went to their info session last fall. I think they had them available to view online, so you could probably ask the admissions office to share that with you.

For NYU, I couldn't find anything from the school so I just went to Vimeo and searched "NYU" in the staff picks page. Before watching a few shorts, I would just check the director's info and see if they had a website. Most people list their MFA in their bio if they got one, so I only watched shorts that I knew were made by NYU grads. I didn't try doing the same for Columbia, but perhaps you could find some this way too. The only downside to this is that the films I found were not the most recent (which makes sense because I assume most people try to submit to festivals for a year at least before putting their films online).

In terms of the stylistic approach, I got a sense that some of the NYU films were a little more bold. Like I remember watching one that was pretty similar to a Wes Anderson movie (
). That being said, one of the films I watched at the Columbia info session was very different from the rest, and also quite bold stylistically (shot in academy ratio, probably on film, with no dialogue, and a very simple story).
Hey thanks heaps for those recourse ideas! I've actually found a category in 'short of the week' for both Columbia and NYU Tisch. Its been super helpful to get a sense of the style and feel of the works that come out of those schools.



Ive actually yet to check out the NYU work, thats what I will be doing today. Looking forward to seeing what the difference is between the two.

Do you remember the name of that specific short film from Columbia?

Thanks heaps man
 

Arthur.g

Member
I have to say, I am getting a sense that NYU is more of an auteur school. It feels like their films are much more subtle in approach from a story point of view. To me, this actually lends itself more to a European style of cinema perhaps?
 

xrisdelrio

Member
Supporting Member
Columbia
NYU
Oh I didn't know about Short of the Week having that. I'll definitely check it out!

And the Columbia one I was referring to is called "I Remember it Rained". Did you get that email from the school with all of the Vimeo links? It's on there.
 

xrisdelrio

Member
Supporting Member
Columbia
NYU
I have to say, I am getting a sense that NYU is more of an auteur school. It feels like their films are much more subtle in approach from a story point of view. To me, this actually lends itself more to a European style of cinema perhaps?
Yeah I also got the sense that NYU might be more of an auteur school as well, although I haven't checked out that many films from it yet. I got waitlisted to NYU and am wondering if I should stay on it, or just commit to Columbia and leave that space for someone else.

I kind of feel like the Columbia schools seem more European actually. Like they're a bit more subtle, whereas NYU tends to produce filmmakers more akin to the likes of Scorcese, Tarantino, Spike Lee... To me they seem more bold in style. I guess I think of European cinema as less bombastic and more quiet/introspective. Idk perhaps I just have a different idea of European cinema though. I'm more familiar with American cinema since I live here.

Are you leaning towards NYU?
 

abu2030

Member
Hiiii! I’m at Columbia now. First thing: I don’t know about NYU, but Columbia should hook you up with a bunch of shorts from students/alumni in their program. They gave me a thumb drive, but they might be doing it digitally this year. I would ask, I bet NYU does something similar.

I can obviously only speak to Columbia but developing strong narratives (with compelling characters and a solid structure that serve the story) is really the name of the game. It’s the focus in the screenwriting classes, it’s the focus in directing class(es) and it’s the focus in the production classes (as well as risk management). Style and genre are elements we’re encouraged to experiment with, but pedagogically they do take a backseat to storytelling, since the school’s belief is that the style serves the story.

That said, it’s my observation that students come into the program with their own unique voices and interests and, for the large part, the school doesn’t mess with that. If all you like is making zombie movies they won’t really tell you not to. That said, they will challenge you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone so that you’re not always relying on the same tricks over and over again.

Hopefully someone who’s been at NYU will be able to give you more info about their program, but as I understand it yes- their interest seems to be in developing your artistic voice, whereas Columbia tends to believe you already have one :p

On a practical level, you will probably get stronger technical training at NYU tho.DM me if I can answer more questions for you! Good luck and congrats, what a great problem to have! Lol
 

Arthur.g

Member
Hiiii! I’m at Columbia now. First thing: I don’t know about NYU, but Columbia should hook you up with a bunch of shorts from students/alumni in their program. They gave me a thumb drive, but they might be doing it digitally this year. I would ask, I bet NYU does something similar.

I can obviously only speak to Columbia but developing strong narratives (with compelling characters and a solid structure that serve the story) is really the name of the game. It’s the focus in the screenwriting classes, it’s the focus in directing class(es) and it’s the focus in the production classes (as well as risk management). Style and genre are elements we’re encouraged to experiment with, but pedagogically they do take a backseat to storytelling, since the school’s belief is that the style serves the story.

That said, it’s my observation that students come into the program with their own unique voices and interests and, for the large part, the school doesn’t mess with that. If all you like is making zombie movies they won’t really tell you not to. That said, they will challenge you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone so that you’re not always relying on the same tricks over and over again.

Hopefully someone who’s been at NYU will be able to give you more info about their program, but as I understand it yes- their interest seems to be in developing your artistic voice, whereas Columbia tends to believe you already have one :p

On a practical level, you will probably get stronger technical training at NYU tho.DM me if I can answer more questions for you! Good luck and congrats, what a great problem to have! Lol
Hey Abu, thanks so much for the reply. Yes I am getting a sense for this now about NYU focusing more on style and Columbia on storytelling(script writing storytelling). But I guess this is why Im in such a predicament, as you said,style serves the story. I am in a place where I want to develop my artistic voice in every sense. I know I need and want to focus on my writing, I know this will be HUGELY beneficial as a director but also because it will give me the tools to articulate(literally) the stories I want to tell as a filmmaker. However, this articulation, ultimately also happens through the way the film plays out stylistically. Style is also subtle(this is where my sensibilities lie) but, it can never the less be an important element of telling the story. Of course, it all relies on a strong story as building blocks for all the elements that make the film.

I guess I just feel like its important for me to focus on strong stories(with real, truthful characters with depth and layers) whilst also developing my artistic voice as a filmmaker and realizing the different languages that cinema has to serve the core story.

Where does this leave me.... I dont know..

Thanks again for all the info and advice you all have given me so far.
 

Arthur.g

Member
Yeah I also got the sense that NYU might be more of an auteur school as well, although I haven't checked out that many films from it yet. I got waitlisted to NYU and am wondering if I should stay on it, or just commit to Columbia and leave that space for someone else.

I kind of feel like the Columbia schools seem more European actually. Like they're a bit more subtle, whereas NYU tends to produce filmmakers more akin to the likes of Scorcese, Tarantino, Spike Lee... To me they seem more bold in style. I guess I think of European cinema as less bombastic and more quiet/introspective. Idk perhaps I just have a different idea of European cinema though. I'm more familiar with American cinema since I live here.

Are you leaning towards NYU?
Hmmm yes, maybe you are right. However, I guess when I think of European cinema I feel like, although subtle, the use of style(this word has perhaps been hijacked and means something a little different in the context of this forum thread) has an important role to play in how story is received.
You are probably dead right that European films often dont feature the same 'bombastic' approach that can come from less subtle use of style. I guess Im wondering if Columbia will give enough attention to the stylistic languages of cinema, like for example Michelangelo Antonioni, Lars von Trier or Tarkovski(these are of course much more style over 'plot' oriented directors), whilst teaching how to use that style to serve the characters and their journey.
 

abu2030

Member
NYU focusing more on style and Columbia on storytelling(script writing storytelling).
Hey, so no, this is incorrect. The directing classes at CU are all about visual storytelling and using the elements of film to tell a compelling narrative. The script in those classes is only as important as you make it, and I would say that as we've moved forward in those classes less and less of us are using scripts for our directing exercises.

I think, to use your words, it's less about developing a command of any technical element of filmmaking (to my knowledge we don't have a color grading or sound mixing class, for example) and more about teaching you how to discern which tool might be right for what part of your film. does that make sense? giving you the tools is maybe NYU's bag (lots of great DPs and editors come out of that program) but giving you the discernment for what tool to use when feels more like Columbia's.

This is SUPER reductive, but: the films I've seen from recent NYU alumni (at festivals, for example) always look really slick and expensive and I might remember a couple of shots, but never the stories. That doesn't happen to me with recent Columbia grad films.

As for subtlety, I don't know if that's true? Plenty of my classmates want to tell more commercial, American-style stories as well, I wouldn't say there's a pattern but maybe I'm wrong. I'm with you though I'm a big fan of less-is-more lol

Have you considered asking to speak to a couple of current students at each program? I came to the program with screenwriting as opposed to directing strengths, so maybe somebody who's closer to your profile might better advise you :)
 

Arthur.g

Member
Hey, so no, this is incorrect. The directing classes at CU are all about visual storytelling and using the elements of film to tell a compelling narrative. The script in those classes is only as important as you make it, and I would say that as we've moved forward in those classes less and less of us are using scripts for our directing exercises.

I think, to use your words, it's less about developing a command of any technical element of filmmaking (to my knowledge we don't have a color grading or sound mixing class, for example) and more about teaching you how to discern which tool might be right for what part of your film. does that make sense? giving you the tools is maybe NYU's bag (lots of great DPs and editors come out of that program) but giving you the discernment for what tool to use when feels more like Columbia's.

This is SUPER reductive, but: the films I've seen from recent NYU alumni (at festivals, for example) always look really slick and expensive and I might remember a couple of shots, but never the stories. That doesn't happen to me with recent Columbia grad films.

As for subtlety, I don't know if that's true? Plenty of my classmates want to tell more commercial, American-style stories as well, I wouldn't say there's a pattern but maybe I'm wrong. I'm with you though I'm a big fan of less-is-more lol

Have you considered asking to speak to a couple of current students at each program? I came to the program with screenwriting as opposed to directing strengths, so maybe somebody who's closer to your profile might better advise you :)
Hi Abu,

This is super helpful, thank you so much!

I have sent out a few messages to some current students and getting some replies which is really nice.

I cant help but think of @xrisdelrio comment about auteur filmmakers at NYU though. this gives me reason to feel like there is more than JUST 'technical' training there, that there is also an emphasis on the aspects that you described are at Columbia.

But once again, its super nice to hear you describe the Columbia program in such a way.

Cheers,
 

xrisdelrio

Member
Supporting Member
Columbia
NYU
Hi Abu,

This is super helpful, thank you so much!

I have sent out a few messages to some current students and getting some replies which is really nice.

I cant help but think of @xrisdelrio comment about auteur filmmakers at NYU though. this gives me reason to feel like there is more than JUST 'technical' training there, that there is also an emphasis on the aspects that you described are at Columbia.

But once again, its super nice to hear you describe the Columbia program in such a way.

Cheers,
I actually asked my interviewers about this when I went in to NYU. I asked them whether my perception of the NYU film's was due to their program or rather a result of their selection of students. They told me it's partly both. They look for candidates that have a strong voice and have compelling stories to tell. They also said that throughout the program they encourage their students to nurture their own voice. The professor told me they often push their students to make films that are personal, although that doesn't necessarily mean autobiographical. I didn't get a good sense of how they literally achieve this, but the professor did mention that because the students make so many films throughout the program, naturally the filmmaker's style and voice get stronger by the end of the 3-4 years.

I'm sure both schools focus on creating well-rounded directors and not just technically adept ones. Both programs seem to be very rigorous and produce fantastic filmmakers. I'm sure you'll do really great in either one! I'm interested in hearing what you ultimately decide. For me, watching the films that have come out of Columbia has cemented my desire to go there. It also helps that the program only involves two years of full tuition as compared to three at NYU.
 

Arthur.g

Member
I actually asked my interviewers about this when I went in to NYU. I asked them whether my perception of the NYU film's was due to their program or rather a result of their selection of students. They told me it's partly both. They look for candidates that have a strong voice and have compelling stories to tell. They also said that throughout the program they encourage their students to nurture their own voice. The professor told me they often push their students to make films that are personal, although that doesn't necessarily mean autobiographical. I didn't get a good sense of how they literally achieve this, but the professor did mention that because the students make so many films throughout the program, naturally the filmmaker's style and voice get stronger by the end of the 3-4 years.

I'm sure both schools focus on creating well-rounded directors and not just technically adept ones. Both programs seem to be very rigorous and produce fantastic filmmakers. I'm sure you'll do really great in either one! I'm interested in hearing what you ultimately decide. For me, watching the films that have come out of Columbia has cemented my desire to go there. It also helps that the program only involves two years of full tuition as compared to three at NYU.
Hi,
yea I got this sense from speaking to a few students too. It seems like its a very practical and collaborative environment. I think there is lots of learning that comes from that, specially in honing ones voice through continuously making content.

I get the sense that maybe(and this is totally a generalization) NYU gives more training in actually pulling a film off to completion, and in doing so, allowing students to progress artistically in that area. However, Columbia may develop stronger writers, which, if one carried through into directing(with unfortunately maybe less practical exercises to develop those skills) could make for a stronger story teller?


Thanks for all your input man.

A
 

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